Sparks fly over St. Charles fireworks proposal
Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2012
By ROBIN SHANNON
HAHNVILLE – A year after an ordinance to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in St. Charles Parish was defeated, the parish councilman who proposed the measure is trying to spark the issue once again.
At a meeting of the St. Charles Council Legislative Committee, which includes all nine council members, the council engaged in discussions with St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne and Norco area Fire Chief Tommy Barreca regarding an ordinance being considered that would partially lift the parish’s ban on fireworks.
Councilman Paul Hogan, who proposed the ordinance, said the measure would allow limited use of fireworks on Jul. 3-5, as well as on Dec. 30, 31 and Jan. 1.
“If you were to walk outside during the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, you would be hard pressed to tell that a ban on fireworks even exists,” Hogan said during the meeting. “If we put something in place so that the citizens know that we have these dates in place where they are allowed to pop fireworks, I would venture to say we would have more people willing to follow the law, and we would have fewer fireworks going off on other days.”
The ordinance would continue to ban all manner of rockets but allow other types of fireworks. It would also continue to prohibit the sale of fireworks in the parish. Fireworks are legal and are sold in St. John the Baptist and Lafourche parishes, as well as the city of Gretna in Jefferson Parish.
A similar ordinance proposed by Hogan last year failed to gain council support.
In addressing the council, Champagne said he and his deputies have struggled to adequately enforce the ban on fireworks on New Year’s Eve and July 4. He said complaints are frequent, but few residents are willing to file complaints on neighbors.
“We cannot issue citations without eye-witness proof,” Champagne said. “To adequately stop fireworks it would take more than 2,000 deputies on street corners.”
Champagne said in many cases, residents are typically satisfied with a deputy just coming by to talk with those shooting fireworks. He said deputies have sometimes been able to cool confrontations between neighbors. He also said this past New Year’s Eve was an exceptionally busy night, and he made the decision to abort fireworks enforcement all together.
Barreca, speaking on behalf of the parish’s Fireman’s Association, said fellow chiefs have not taken a position on the ban and that aside from a stray rocket sparking a fire in a boat, calls to the fire department have been minimal.
“In 40 years with the department, I don’t know of any serious incident where the fire department was called to address a fireworks fire,” Barreca said.
The ban on fireworks has been in place since 1992 with the support of various industries in St. Charles that are concerned that a stray rocket could start a fire at a refinery or chemical plant.
Hogan’s proposal would ban the use of fireworks within 1,000 feet of industrial facilities and businesses such as gas stations, churches, schools and hospitals. Some on the council said Tuesday that they are not ready to lift the ban just yet.
“I understand what we’re trying to do is have some form of fireworks,” Councilman Clayton “Snookie” Faucheux said. “I don’t see that somebody is going to prohibit themselves or limit themselves as to what they’re going to buy.”
Councilman Dennis Nuss said he would consider support of the measure but added he would like to see some changes to the language of the ordinance before it is introduced.
Hogan said he would be willing to redraft the measure based on comments from Champagne, Barreca and the council.